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Source: Summer 2006 Volume 43 Number 3, Page 88

The Excavations at Valley Forge Station

Mike Bertram

Page 88

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Valley Forge National Historical Park has initiated a project to refurbish the Valley Forge railroad station as a visitor's center for the Washington's Headquarters area of the Park. As part of the project, exploratory archeology has been undertaken in the station yard. The postcard photograph below gives a context to what has been found.

Illustration from page 88

Postcard, c. early 1900. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey, HABS, PA, 46-VALFO, V.2-99. Photographer unknown.

The freight depot by the tracks is where the present station building is located. The ruins near the top right hand corner are of the shoddy mill. [Note 1] Shoddy is a low quality cloth made from rags. The rags were pulled apart to separate the individual fibers. The fibers were respun and rewoven, or felted, into cloth. Henry and Andrew Arthur, British industrialists, developed and ran this shoddy mill in Valley Forge. The mill had the same problem that most of the other industries around Valley Forge encountered; it burned down at least twice, in 1872 and 1873.

The archeological work started with a ground-penetrating radar study of the station yard. Anomalies in the radar signature were used to decide where exploratory pits should be dug.

The first item uncovered, below left, was the track and ties of the siding leading to the freight depot.

The second item uncovered, below right was the corner of the foundations of the Shoddy Mill.

Illustration from page 88

Track and ties.
Photograph by the author, May 2006

Illustration from page 88

Track and ties.
Photograph by the author, May 2006


  1. Mike Bertram. “Water and Fire: The Power Behind Valley Forge: The Rise and Fall of Valley Forge Industry.” Tredyffrin Easttown History Club Quarterly, Vol. 41. No. 2 (Summer 2004) pp. 75-84.

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